Alexis de TocquevilleAlexis de Tocqueville, [Alexis Charles Henri Maurice Clerel, le Comte de Tocqueville] (1805-1859) French historian

Alexis de Tocqueville Quote

β€œThe Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of the states; and these, in uniting together, have not forfeited their nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the same people. If one of the states chooses to withdraw from the compact, it would be difficult to disapprove its right of doing so, and the Federal Government would have no means of maintaining its claims directly either by force or right.”

Alexis de TocquevilleAlexis de Tocqueville
~ Alexis de Tocqueville

Democracy in America, 1835

Ratings and Comments

Shooterman, Beaumont, Tx

If Lincoln had only heeded this!

wuz2blu, Portland, OR

Brilliant. It's so easy to get caught up in the "bigger is better/more powerful" and forget that the states (or, more to the point, each and every state) is more powerful than the Federal government. "Federal laws" do *not* supercede state laws! (Although many government agents may want you to believe otherwise.)

wuz2blu, Portland, OR

@ Shooterman: I was just coming to think about this as i was hitting "send" on my previous comment. I am sorry (and i apologize to you) that i didn't pay more attention to what you'd already said. Kudos to you, friend.

Mike, Norwalk

Tocqueville, from the perspective of a legal and religious historian, had some great insight into the US's creation and that to which would make it great.

jim k, austin,

Shooterman, Beaumont is right. Read "Lincoln Unmasked" for more on "Honest Abe".

cal, lewisville, tx

I understand Lincoln and Karl Marx exchanged letters. It showed.

J Carlton, Calgary

Cal, Marx had plenty of influence on today's USA. (see 10 planks of Marx's Communist Manifesto) And for more on Lincoln / Civil War and other US wars, read John V Denson's "A Century of War". It will definitely open your eyes. States Rights should for sure supersede the crooks in DC.

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RBESRQ    7/24/09

Yes, yes, yes, Please let this happen - my only reason for not wanting it to happen is that those states which are today more fundamental, and the antithesis of liberalism, will become more so and further the separation of the people of this continent - this will lead to its isolationism which for our children would be detrimental (but this could be overcome through creative alliances). America's policy up until the WWll was non-intervention and protectionism (and then we invade other sovereign states – what hypocrisy) - it wasn't until American corporations realized the profit to be made from war and a free market that they did 180 degree change. A free market only works when there are equal terms. The biggest component in any foreign trade policy is one of labor and its costs. If America continues along its present path we will have States wishing to secede and that may be a good thing for the continent – perhaps an alliance with regard to Security may be the only common denominator. Shooterman makes a valid point.

Logan, Memphis, TN

De Tocqueville left much to be desired in a lot of his writings and foundational thinking (he being influenced more by the French philosophies than by the foundational and established English philosophies that this country was built); however, this is great.

Waffler, Smith

De Tocqueville usually recorded things accuratelly as he saw them. The thinking of the day may have been correct as he stated it but the legal question of secession was still brewing. The trend since the revolution was for greater and greater union, thus the Constitution was wriiten "in order to form a more perfect union". All societies experience union and disunion voices. Great Britan has those in Scotland and Wales who want disunion. The French had trouble with those of Normandy or Brittany the Bretons, the Spanish with the folk in the NW province etcetera. In de Tocqueville's day the distance of the states from each other and from Washington made independence or secession more imaginable but today with travel and economic interdependency the idea is toally old hat. We are now virtually one state and the old state borders might just as well be eliminated.

Juggs, Any Towm

Montana is getting close to succeeding. Now they have distinct laws related to owning gun, manufacture of guns, manufacture and sales of ammunition and have refused to include Real ID in drivers licenses. By the way, New Mexico has started biometric imaging in drivers licenses without establishment of new laws. They simply use their current law, after failing a House Bill in 2005 or 2006 to coincide with Real ID. And the watch dog of civil rights, ACLU, went along with it. A new Federal HB2160 will require all states to share their biometric ID with the Fed government data bases. Closer and closer to one state.

Waffler, Smith

de Tocqueville is wrong in my view. The states did not have separate nationalities. First of all they were only 13 years removed from being colonies of England and most folk considered themselves of English nationality. Of course their were the other various European immigrants groups but by and large the folk were English spoke English. I think he is totally off base to say that they were distinct nationalities. The separate colonies found their nationality when they realized that they were Americans and Continentals not mere regionalists.

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    RBESRQ    7/25/09

    We were only a few votes from speaking German

    Waffler, Smith

    Where did you get that info RBESRQ. As we know at least in this country language is not legislated but evolves. The language of the overwhelming majoirity of the colonists was English. The Virginia, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Georgia and Pennsylvania residents all had their ancestry and nationality from England. To be speak of these colonists as separate nations is a real reach and I believe an error in de Tocqueville's perception.

    Waffler, Smith

    In addition each and all of the colonies were ruled by the same King and Parliament in London it was therefor somewhat natural for them to choose 13 years after freedom from London to espouse themselves or chain themselves (as some would have it) to another central government even if of their own choosing. Those who think that secession and this nationality thing is something else are just doing wishful thinking because they don't like the current or recent Washington scene.

    Elisabeth, Astoria, NY

    I agree with Waffler. Everything very well said. As far as understand, the Constitution of the United States - or of any nation - is never designed to include "withdrawn". Lincoln knew that it was in the young nation's people's best interest that the Union should be preserved so that a larger number of people of be able to enjoy the benefits of a stronger united nation. That assured, rights must be preserved and protected and differences must be worked out. Note: The three stars were in consideration to Monsieur de Tocqueville's conjectures on rights and freedom of choice, which are incorrect when it is about the constitution of a nation and The Constitution of a country.

    E Archer, NYC

    de Tocqueville was right when he said it, and it was indeed the intent of the founding fathers who wrote the Constitution that each State was a sovereign state with its own Constitution. Just because people have twisted the word 'federal' into 'national' does not change facts. People should also remember that the American Revolution was unprecedented -- it was a revolution of the mind, of the idea that man was not born a slave or a subject of another man, king, or council. The King objected! And if our illustrious founders had been more enlightened, they would have freed the slaves, too, with the Declaration of Independence (but without unanimous consent, the declaration of Independence would never have been made). The same with Lincoln's war of southern aggression -- slavery was never the issue, the Emancipation Proclamation only emancipated the slaves of the seceding states, not those still in the Union. Again, it is about power -- the power of the ruling class over the people -- "you are ours!" FDR furthered the idea, and Obama is going even further. We have lost control of our government -- we keep electing 'leaders' when they are but 'rulers' -- we don't need to be ruled, we need to keep the so-called rulers in check and out of the public's business. Alexis is describing the sentiment of America in his day -- we have obviously come a long way, baby.

    John Shuttleworth, NYC

    Obviously, de Tocqueville was wrong about the force part. The question of principle is not open because there is no specific clause within the constitution which mandates the condition of insolubility; except that little phrase: "in order to form a more perfect union..." That phrase, however, is not "we shall". The word "shall" is used correctly throughout that document; but not in this situation. No formal principle prevented the English from displacing the Dutch in New York; nor the displacement of Indians or Spanish. Whatever gave European royalty the right to usurp land, once they discovered it was inhabited; is beyond me. Oh, I forgot: God. Then, what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder ? Please. We, currently, are a nation because it is in our best economic, and physical, survival interests to be so; nothing more. There are no overriding principles, save high school cheerleading, supporting this integrity. Had things run their course would slavery survived ? Many think not. (What many ? That requires a foot note.) We formed this country through an act of will after almost 20 years of deliberation. (Say 1769 to 1789.) It was not assembled without extensive debate; but is there a reason it should endure in an age of Postmodernism and, now, Internationalism ? Why, after abandoning the gold standard, should we cling to the idea of physical borders and loyalty oaths ?

    Ronw13, OR
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      Ronw13, OR    3/28/18

      Due season is upon us and time to acknowledge the powers that be. " in order to form a ( more "perfect" union )." a biblical, ref, of the "single particle of union" through freewill association. Simplicity is key ! Tocqueville fails to reflect upon the source individual that makes up the state union. France dropped that ball long ago. As they chose democracy over our form of republicanism. " If thou shalt confess with thy mouth" " For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." With this in mind our founding fathers chose open confession, " with the mouth confession is made "unto" salvation." Oath is paramount and required, for it is through testimony we join in union of a Freewill association. And these testimonies are "very sure." Spiritual barriers require physical borders. in order to maintain, and/or Restore our "more perfect union). I suspect John Shuttleworth, NYC knows the answer to his questions. The angelic Divinity of Covenant and Oath, protector of the glory of sovereignty, a judicial figure, And All seeing protector of Truth. appears as the Creator of all mankind. The Lord, as also spoken Apam Napat projects power upon and aiding the appointed. Khvarenah. the power projected. This power projected upon the Individual sovereigns and that which makes up A more perfect union.

      Durham, Birmingham,AL

      The "wonderful" president Abraham Lincoln sure squashed the quaint idea in the Declaration of Independence that for the powers of government to be just, they need the consent of the governed.

      Mike, Norwalk

      John Shuttleworth, I'm not sure I followed your points exactly. For example, what does the gold standard have to do with physical borders and/or loyalty oaths? And, what part of "postmodernism" would be superior to what part of the reasons exclusively debated concerning this nation's assembly? Where do inalienable rights, individual sovereignty, the laws of nature and of nature's God or justice fit into any part(s) of your stated scenarios? It would be good if you commented more often here on this platform to expand the clarity of your ideas.


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